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Multiple military deployments in families may raise teen suicide risk Teens with family members in the military appear more at risk for suicide if those relatives are deployed abroad multiple times.
With board games, it's how children count that counts Researchers have examined whether playing board games can help children improve math skills. It turns out the method children use to count as they move their tokens on a board game is directly linked to their gains in numeracy. The new study suggests parents and teachers need to direct children's attention to the numbers on the board game in order to realize math gains.
The Two Best Questions For Your Sex Life Often, the questions we ask of ourselves are what finally carve the shape of our lives. A great question excites us, opens new doors, and invites both compassion and curiosity. I'd like to offer two such questions about sex. Your answers will teach you rich lessons about your sex life"”and more
Early care for psychosis catches on, raises questions Advocates say early treatment for serious mental illness makes sense.
Why we can 'see' the house that looks like Hitler From seeing shapes in clouds to hearing Bing Crosby in a blizzard of static, we're all prone to finding things that aren't there. And there's a name for it: apopheniaThe Latvian psychologist Konstanins Raudive spent the summer of 1965 trying to contact the dead. Every day, with careful precision, he would take a new reel of recording tape from its box, thread the tape through the rollers of the recorder and set up the microphone next to a mistuned radio. The static hush was saved on to the recorder and he would spend hours reviewing the audio, listening for the quiet whisper of the deceased.But the dead were frustratingly shy. Despite his technical skills and linguistic abilities he heard nothing except the fuzz and pop of the radio for months on end. But slowly, with time and attention, words began to form. "It takes at least three months for the ear to adjust itself," Raudive wrote later. "To begin with, though [the ear] may hear speech-like noises, it cannot differentiate the words, let alone understand what they mean."He amplified and re-recorded his samples to help him find meaningful sounds and gradually the spirits seemed more present. When Raudive summoned an old girlfriend from Scotland who had since passed away, she seemed to reply: "All sait dein, Aileen" using a single word from English, French and German to say: "Your Aileen knows all" (except, it would seem, the consistent use of grammar). Even stranger was that the spirits often spoke in languages they had never known in life. Raudive's mother, a firmly Latvian woman by all accounts, seemed to speak in mixed Spanish, Italian, Swedish, German, standard Latvian and her own dialect.Although baffling to many of his scientific peers, Raudive eventually published his discoveries in a book that appeared in English as Breakthrough. It was a massive success and the media lined up to listen to the "electronic voice phenomena". The results were somewhat mixed. When the BBC science programme Tomorrow's World turned up to film Raudive in action, only the odd indistinct word could be made out. They left, unimpressed.A Cambridge parapsychologist, David Ellis, studied Raudive's attempts to contact the dead but all the evidence pointed to the impressions having been formed by the listeners. Later, psychologist Imants BaruÅ¡s attempted to listen for ghostly words using Raudive's methods under laboratory conditions but few could be found and, when they were, every listener seemed to hear something different.Rather than discovering a form of communication with the dead, Raudive had inadvertently rediscovered the remarkable human talent for perceiving meaning where there is none. Known as apophenia or pareidolia, it is something we all experience to some degree. We see faces in the clouds and animals in rock formations. We mishear our name being called in crowds and think our mobile phones are vibrating when it turns out to be nothing but the normal sensations of our own movement.In many ways, this tendency is the basic ingredient of hallucination and it is present to a much stronger degree in people who have frank and striking hallucinations, most notably as part of the range of experiences that can accompany a diagnosis of schizophrenia. A classic study by Sanford Mintz and Murray Alpert found that more than 80% of psychiatric patients who experienced hallucinations falsely perceived the sound of Bing Crosby's White Christmas when asked to listen for it amid the sound of static. Those who think that people with schizophrenia are "out of touch with reality" may be surprised to hear that 40% of the healthy participants in the study heard the music. The music was used a decade earlier in one of the first ever lab studies on hallucinations in everyday people. The same approach has been used many times since, making Bing Crosby the most hallucinated man in science.Recently, the concept has been turned into a test to help detect hallucinations in people with degenerative brain disorders. Dementia is usually a disease of old age where the brain declines quicker than would be expected from normal ageing. It can lead to confusion and, in some cases, hallucinations, but because of its impact on thinking and communication, just asking people if they are "seeing things" is not always possible. A team from Tohoku University in Japan created a series of ambiguous photos including things such as birds in curious formations and shadows that scatter across the floor. They found that the number of false perceptions seen in the photos could distinguish between patients with Lewy body dementia, a type known to cause a high level of hallucinations, and Alzheimer's disease.Less clinically, the Swiss neuroscientist Peter Brugger has discovered that this tendency is raised in people who have greater numbers of supernatural beliefs and experiences but aren't unwell in any sense of the word. With increased apophenia, perhaps, the world just seems more imbued with meaning.Raudive dismissed psychological explanations for the "messages" he found and instead was steadfast in his belief that they were the voices of the dead. Towards the end of his life, he began to investigate a budgerigar called Putzi, which he believed was transmitting spirit voices through its birdsong, unintentionally demonstrating apophenia in a particularly striking form. Raudive died in 1974 but, rather appropriately, he still appears, to his followers, in the hiss and static of their amplified recordings.NeurosciencePsychologyVaughan © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Rituals of Absolution: "Go and Sin No More?" Absolution may make us feel better, but does it make us behave better? Recent studies provide conflicting results. read more
Conquer Your Bad Dreams by Confronting Your Worries Bad dreams and nightmares are not only unpleasant experiences but can interfere significantly with your sleep. The Emotional Cascade Model predicts that daytime worries can spill over into nightmares, affecting people who have difficulty regulating their feelings. New research shows how you can apply this model to achieve a more restful nights and better more
Despite what you've been told, you aren't 'left-brained' or 'right-brained' | Amy Novotney The brain is more complex than corporate team-building exercises suggest, but the myth is unlikely to die anytime soonFrom self-help and business success books to job applications and smartphone apps, the theory that the different halves of the human brain govern different skills and personality traits is a popular one. No doubt at some point in your life you've been schooled on "left-brained" and "right-brained" thinking – that people who use the right side of their brains most are more creative, spontaneous and subjective, while those who tap the left side more are more logical, detail-oriented and analytical.Too bad it's not true. In a new two-year study published in the journal Plos One, University of Utah neuroscientists scanned the brains of more than 1,000 people, ages 7 to 29, while they were lying quietly or reading, measuring their functional lateralization – the specific mental processes taking place on each side of the brain. They broke the brain into 7,000 regions, and while they did uncover patterns for why a brain connection might be strongly left or right-lateralized, they found no evidence that the study participants had a stronger left or right-sided brain network.Jeff Anderson, the study's lead author and a professor of neuroradiology at the University of Utah says: It's absolutely true that some brain functions occur in one or the other side of the brain, language tends to be on the left, attention more on the right.But the brain isn't as clear-cut as the myth makes it out to be. For example, the right hemisphere is involved in processing some aspects of language, such as intonation and emphasis. How, then, did the left-brained/right-brained theory take root? Experts suggest the myth dates back to the 1800s, when scientists discovered that an injury to one side of the brain caused a loss of specific abilities. The concept gained ground in the 1960s based on Nobel-prize-winning "split-brain" work by neuropsychologists Robert Sperry, and Michael Gazzaniga. The researchers conducted studies with patients who had undergone surgery to cut the corpus callosum – the band of neural fibers that connect the hemispheres – as a last-resort treatment for epilepsy. They discovered that when the two sides of the brain weren't able to communicate with each other, they responded differently to stimuli, indicating that the hemispheres have different functions. Both of these bodies of research tout findings related to function; it was popular psychology enthusiasts who undoubtedly took this work a step further and pegged personality types to brain hemispheres.According to Anderson: The neuroscience community has never accepted the idea of 'left-dominant' or 'right-dominant' personality types. Lesion studies don't support it, and the truth is that it would be highly inefficient for one half of the brain to consistently be more active than the other.Yet, despite Anderson's work and other studies that continue to disprove the idea that personality type is related to one or the other side of the brain being stronger, my guess is that the left-brained/right-brained vernacular isn't going away anytime soon. Human society is built around categories, classifications and generalizations, and there's something seductively simple about labeling yourself and others as either a logical left-brainer or a free-spirited right brainer. Similar to the Myers-Briggs test – another widely used personality test with limited scientific evidence – the left-brained/right-brained thinker theory provides us with an explanation for why we are the way we are, and offers insights into where we fit into the world. It's also a great conversation starter – and if used as a novelty, or a way to strengthen the "weaker half" of your brain, the myth is pretty harmless.The problems start, however, when the left-brained/right-brained myth becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When your 12-year-old fills out an online personality test that pegs her as a "right-brainer" and she decides to skip her math homework – because the test told her she isn't good with numbers – the persistence of this false dichotomy starts to become destructive. The same goes for the unemployed worker who forgoes applying for their dream job because the job description calls for creativity skills they think they may not have. What research has yet to refute is the fact that the brain is remarkably malleable, even into late adulthood. It has an amazing ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections between brain cells, allowing us to continually learn new things and modify our behavior. Let's not underestimate our potential by allowing a simplistic myth to obscure the complexity of how our brains really work.NeuroscienceUnited StatesPsychologyMedical researchAmy © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
HIV protein may impact neurocognitive impairment in infected patients A protein shed by HIV-infected brain cells alters synaptic connections between networks of nerve cells, according to new research. The findings could explain why nearly half of all patients infected with the AIDS virus experience some level of neurocognitive impairment.
Can certain herbs stave off Alzheimer's disease? Researchers have found that antioxidant extracts from spearmint and rosemary fight mild cognitive impairment in an animal model.
How teens choose their friends A national study finds that the courses students take in high school have powerful effects on the friendships they make.
Forget the headlines – schizophrenia is more common than you might think Schizophrenia isn't a specific, rare or rigorously defined illness. Instead, it covers a wide range of often unrelated conditions, all of which are also seen in people who are not mentally illWhich illness frightens you most? Cancer? Stroke? Dementia? To judge from tabloid coverage, the condition we should really fear isn't physical at all. "Scared of mum's schizophrenic attacks", "Knife-wielding schizophrenic woman in court", "Schizo stranger killed dad", "Rachel murder: schizo accused", and"My schizophrenic son says he'll kill... but he's escaped from secure hospitals 7 times" are just a few of dozens of similar headlines we found in a cursory internet search. Mental illness, these stories imply, is dangerous. And schizophrenia is the most dangerous of all.Such reporting is unhelpful, misleading and manipulative. But it may be even more inaccurate than it first appears. This is because scientists are increasingly doubtful whether schizophrenia – a term invented more than a century ago by the psychiatric pioneer Eugen Bleuler – is a distinct illness at all. This isn't to say that individuals diagnosed with the condition don't have genuine and serious mental health problems. But how well the label "schizophrenia" fits those problems is now a very real question.What's wrong with the concept of schizophrenia? For one thing, research indicates the term may simply be functioning as a catch-all for a variety of separate problems. Six main conditions are typically caught under the umbrella of schizophrenia: paranoia; grandiosity (delusional beliefs that one has special powers or is famous); hallucinations (hearing voices, for example); thought disorder (being unable to think straight); anhedonia or the inability to experience pleasure; and diminished emotional expression (essentially an emotional "numbness"). But how many of these problems a person experiences, and how severely, varies enormously. Having one doesn't mean you'll necessarily develop any of the others.Why hasn't this been noticed by clinicians? Mental health professionals, inevitably, tend only to see the most unwell individuals. These patients tend to suffer from lots of the problems we've mentioned – the more difficulties you're experiencing, the more likely it is that you'll end up being seen by a specialist – prompting psychiatrists like Bleuler to assume these problems are symptoms of a single underlying condition. But defining an illness by looking only at the minority who end up in hospital can be a big mistake.The traditional view has been that schizophrenia occurs in approximately 1% of people. But it's now clear that the sort of experiences captured under the label are common in the general population – frequently far less distressing and disruptive, for sure, but essentially the same thing. Take paranoia, for instance. Almost 20% of UK adults report feeling as though others were against them in the previous 12 months, with 1.8% fearing plots to cause them serious harm. We tested the level of paranoia among the general public by asking volunteers to take a virtual reality tube train ride, during which they shared a carriage with a number of computer-generated "avatars". These avatars were programmed to behave in a strictly neutral fashion, yet over 40% of participants reported that the avatars showed hostility towards them.Moreover, triggering the odd sensations associated with schizophrenia is remarkably easy. Go without sleep for a night or two and you're likely to experience some very peculiar thoughts and feelings (as demonstrated by a recent study of sailors in solo races). Consume a lot of cannabis and the effects can be similar. Meanwhile, a classic study by the psychiatrist Stuart Grassian showed that prisoners placed in solitary confinement were soon prey to hallucinations and delusions.What all this suggests is that schizophrenia isn't a specific, relatively rare, and rigorously defined illness. Instead, it covers a wide range of often unrelated conditions, all of which are also seen in people who are not mentally ill, and all of which exist on a continuum from the comparatively mild to the very severe. People with conditions like schizophrenia are simply those who happen to fall at the extreme end of a number of these continua.What causes psychotic experiences? Research has pointed a decisive finger at living in cities, drug use, poverty, migration, traumatic experiences in childhood and later negative events such as being the victim of an assault. Experiences like paranoia are also linked with a number of psychological traits, such as a tendency to worry, feel depressed, sleep poorly, or jump to conclusions. These factors seem to work in what scientists call a "dose-response" manner: the more of them you experience, the more likely it is that your mental health will suffer.Genetic factors also play a part, though there's no evidence for a single "schizophrenia" gene. Instead, a multitude of genes are likely to be involved – with their effect, crucially, conditioned by environmental factors. So the people who end up being treated for schizophrenia aren't the unlucky few who happen to have inherited a rogue gene. Genetic susceptibility exists on a spectrum too. The more of the relevant genes you possess, the further you are to the extreme end of the spectrum and the less of a push you'll need from life events to become ill. It's worth remembering, however, that genetic research into schizophrenia has focused on the people who present for treatment: the severest end of the continua. What it hasn't done is look at the various types of psychotic experiences across the general population.Not everyone agrees with these new ways of thinking about schizophrenia. An editorial in the British Journal of Psychiatry, for example, lambasted the approach as "scientifically unproven and clinically impractical". But one thing is certain: deepening our understanding of psychotic problems must be a priority. Diagnostic criteria for mental illnesses change over time, and the same will happen with schizophrenia. Rather than getting sidetracked by day-to-day debates about the symptoms required for a diagnosis, it will be more productive to focus on the individual psychotic experiences, remembering that they don't only occur in those who come into contact with mental health services but exist on spectra in the general population. This isn't merely a theoretical issue: if we target specific problems, rather than a loosely defined illness, we're likely to improve treatment outcomes for the many people struggling with these debilitating experiences."¢ Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman are the authors of Paranoia: the 21st Century Fear, published by Oxford University Press."¢ Daniel Freeman is a professor of Clinical Psychology, and a Medical Research Council (MRC) senior clinical fellow, in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford, and a fellow of University College, Oxford. Twitter: @ProfDFreeman"¢ Jason Freeman is a psychology writer. Twitter: @JasonFreeman100PsychologySchizophreniaMental healthNeuroscienceGeneticsMedical researchDaniel FreemanJason © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
The Brain "Sees" Objects That You Don't Perceive A new study shows how much visual input the brain processes, but we never consciously see.→ Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
Motivation and aspiration: what's the point? Dean Burnett: Science shows that telling people to increase aspirations and motivation is both illogical and ineffective in many waysDean Burnett
A Theory About Why the Powerful Don't Care For the Powerless People sometimes derogate victims in order to maintain a belief in a just world. A new study suggests that this kind of cold-heartedness could also help people focus on the long-run. read more
Genes uniquely expressed by brain's immune cells Investigators have used a new sequencing method to identify a group of genes used by the brain's immune cells -- called microglia -- to sense pathogenic organisms, toxins or damaged cells that require their response. Identifying these genes should lead to better understanding of the role of microglia both in normal brains and in neurodegenerative disorders.
The Mammogram Myth, Alive and Well on "Good Morning America" Good Morning America's Amy Robach announced that the on-air mammogram she had as part of the show's breast cancer awareness promotion, ended up getting her a diagnosis. It remains to be seen whether the mammogram will make a life-saving difference, but the fanfare surrounding her diagnosis adds to the confusion about the potential benefits and harms of universal more
Night Owls and Early Risers Have Different Brain Structures Your sleep preference may not be a preference at all - studies show that our desire of sleeping late or rising early is driven by our brain more
Texas county adopts sweeping policy to protect LGBT inmates New policy is designed to protect and guarantee equal treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender inmates.
Doctors are told to get serious about obesity The medical profession has issued guidelines for fighting the nation's obesity epidemic, and they urge physicians to be a lot more aggressive about helping patients drop those extra pounds.